Mandi's Reviews > How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
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Mar 08, 12

it was ok
bookshelves: post-peace-corps
Read in January, 2012

I thought I would enjoy this book since I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the DR and the second page of the novel has the line "like one of those Peace Corps girls who have let themselves go so as to do dubious good in the world." Humor, right?

But I didn't enjoy most of the book. I never felt like it captured any of the real feelings of being from one country, adjusting to another, and then returning to your home country years later and realizing that you don't feel like you exactly belong there either.

Instead, it felt like Julia Alvarez wrote a series of short stories about these same characters -- playing around in the attempts of forming her ideas for a book -- and in the end just turned those stories into chapters and called it a book. But there is no real development. Even the jumping around in history doesn't create the greater insight the jumping around is supposed to create -- of greater psychological complexity being revealed now that you see what events occurred in the past to shape those adult views and behaviors. Everything was a hint at something without taking the risk of really plunging into it.

I was also disappointed because so many Dominicans (as well as many other Latinos) immigrate to the US and although they were professionals in their own country they are not treated as professionals in the US and must combat countless racism. But the Garcia family never encounters any of that. Sure, the father barely escaped with his life, fleeing the DR during Trujillo's reign, and yet the father is fortunate enough to get a visa that brings him to the US as a doctor. The family was ridiculously wealthy in the DR and they come to the US and Alvarez doesn't address any kind of financial difficulty faced by the family after entirely uprooting their lives. Even if they were that wealthy in the DR, it would still have been an adjustment for them to live without the maids and cooks they had had before.

Ultimately, I didn't leave with any strong feelings of connection to any of the characters. I didn't bond with them as adults (most of the stories depicted the adult sisters as annoying) and they only got slightly more tolerable as children.

The only thing that makes this 2 stars as opposed to one is, if isolated, there are moments that are good. However, none of these moments really comes together to create depth to the novel as a whole.
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